Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16, 1932: Shortstop Charlie Gelbert Accidentally Shoots Himself While Hunting

     On November 16, 1932, Cardinals shortstop Charlie Gelbert accidentally shot himself in the leg while hunting in the mountains of Pennsylvania. The 26-year-old had tripped over a vine, and within an instant his life and major league career were forever changed. The accident sidelined him, but it did not end his career. He had a long road ahead, and by the time he got to the end of that road he had led a life worth remembering.

     Gelbert helped the Cardinals take the National League pennant in 1930, then in 1931 he helped the club win their second World Series title. His star was just beginning to shine before that gun went off. As we all know everything can change in the blink of an eye, and it did that day. The initial reports had the shortstop listed in "good" condition.  His spirits were high as he lay in a hospital bed recovering, and even as early as January of '33 he was talking about reporting for Spring Training. That was not going to be the case. In fact, he had setback after setback that required multiple surgeries.

      While Gelbert held onto optimism, Branch Rickey had to scramble to figure out who would man the position if things did not work out the way everyone involved wished. It led to a deal in the Spring of '33 that put the Birds on the Bat across the chest of Leo Durocher. The acquisition of Durocher was a move that had to be made, and it proved to be a good one, as held down short through 1936, and was a key member of the '34 Championship winning club.

     Before that Gashouse Gang got together in '34, Gelbert had hopes of joining them. However, gangrene set in, and for a short while there was fear that he would lose his leg. By March of '34 the news hit the wires that Gelbert would be lost for yet another season. Through it all Gelbert remained optimistic. He was determined to return to the diamond, and his determination did pay off.

     When the calendar turned to 1935 the rest of Charlie Gelbert's life began. He had turned a page on a dark chapter in life. The team announced he would be on the roster in the coming year. Finally some good news. Gelbert ended up playing in 62 games for the in '35, and cranked out a .292 average. He returned in '36, and played in 93 games, but his average dipped to .229. That proved to be his last year with the Birds, as the club sold him to the Reds in December of that year. He bounced as utility man until the end of the 1940 season, then hung up his baseball cleats.

     As mentioned before the accident did not define the man that Charlie Gelbert was. His days on the diamond were far from over. In 1946, Gelbert joined the ranks of college coaching when he took a job managing the Lafayette Leopards in Easton, Pennsylvania. The ole ballplayer turned coach had been a multi-talented athlete in his youth, and helped coach the school's football and basketball teams as well. He made his true mark on the diamond though as he led the team to five Division II World Series appearances. He coached the Leopards until he passed away suddenly in at the age of 60 in 1967. The impact he made at that school will never be forgotten, they honored his legacy in 2004 by retiring his number 20. The man who had suffered an unfortunate accident in he Fall of '32 would forever be remembered as a great coach, and today I look at him with great admiration as someone who would not give up after being knocked down time and time again.

You can view Charlie Gelbert's career numbers here:

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10, 2005: Carpenter Wins The Cy Young

     On November 10, 2005, Chris Carpenter was named the National League's Cy Young Award winner. Carpenter was the just second Cardinal to lay claim to the prize, as he joined a club that was occupied by one man. That man's name was Bob Gibson. Gibby claimed the prize twice, with the first coming in 1968 and the second coming in 1970. Gibson found some company in the club 35 years later, as Carpenter posted a 21-5 record with a 2.83 earned run average.

    Carpenter had fierce competition for the award, as Dontrelle Willis of the Florida Marlins posted a 22-10 record with a 2.63 earned run average. However, it was Carpenter that had 19 of the 32 first place votes going to him. Willis had 11, and Roger Clemens followed them up with two. The article featured in the picture today documents the road that Carpenter traveled to get to that point. It was a road that involved pain, rehab, and even the questioning of a career that had hardly started before an injury looked like it may have ended it. He had showed promise early in his career in Toronto, as he posted double digits in the win column during three different seasons. However, 2002 proved to be a year that tested Carpenter's will. He had suffered an arm injury, and setbacks thereafter that raised the question if he should go on. The answer was yes, he should go on.

     Things got worse before they got better. The Blue Jays brass wanted him to consider working through his issues at the minor league level. It was not something he embraced, so he tested the market, and in December of 2002 Chris Carpenter put ink on a contract that made him a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. The organization was well aware of the road he had traveled, and they were well aware that there would be a long road ahead of him before he was ready to pitch for his new club. Together, they traveled that road, and were rewarded with a triumphant return to the mound in 2004. The hurler posted a 15-5 record for the National League Champions, and was awarded the Comeback Player of the Year at season's end.

     The 21-5 season the next year kept the awards coming for the man who came oh so close to calling it quits. He was a Cy Young Award winner who showed that hard work and determination can push you through. He did not give up, and because of that he is the last Cardinal to take home the coveted award. The 2005 season was Carpenter's finest season from a personal standpoint. However, he did win 15 or more games three more times. What he did on the diamond, and in the clubhouse helped bring the Cardinals the title in 2006 and 2011. As we all know Carpenter did fight through injury throughout the rest of his career. The key word to that last sentence is "fight". He kept fighting right up until he could fight no more. From this fan's perspective he is one of the greatest pitchers I have seen on the diamond. His battle to stay on that diamond is quite inspiring as well. When you consider what he went though that Cy Young Award had to mean so much to the man who wore the 29 over the course of nine years in St. Louis.

Friday, November 7, 2014

November 7, 1945: Eddie Dyer Gets The Job

     On November 7, 1945, Eddie Dyer was named the new skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals. The announcement came one day after Billy Southworth announced that he would be moving onto the Boston Braves. Southworth had taken the Cardinals job in 1940, and he led the club to three consecutive pennants with the first coming in 1942. Two of those three pennant winning squads won the title, and he had driven his stock high. The Braves made an offer that Sam Breadon would not match, and that Southworth could not refuse. Breadon knew that Southworth would be leaving for nearly a month. However, both parties chose to keep it under wraps until the Cardinals owner could choose his replacement. Once that was done the news hit the wires on consecutive days. A changing of the guard had taken place. Eddie Dyer now stood at the gate.

     With the string of recent success the club had, Dyer was stepping into some big shoes. The Cardinals had failed to win the pennant in '45, but they were considered a powerhouse club that had raced to the finish line, despite the fact that Stan Musial had to miss the season to serve his country. Dyer would be getting Stan back, and had all the talent he needed to guide the club to another title. He also had all the skill he needed, He had managed at various levels within organization, and had gained a great respect amongst his peers, which earned him a job that until then he had only dreamed about.

     The new skipper met the high expectations in '46 by guiding the team to a pennant winning season, then a subsequent World Series title. It had been a true battle between the Cardinals and the Dodgers that season, as they stormed down the stretch in a neck and neck race that ended with a tie. The tie set the table for a three game playoff that took Dyer's Birds just two games to decide the National League Champion. He then guided then guided them to victory over the Boston Red Sox in a classic seven game battle that put the words World Series champion on his resume.

     Ultimately, that was Dyer's finest hour as the skipper of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers took over the National League in the latter part of the decade. It was not handed to them though. The Birds put up a fight. In 1949, the club finished just one game out, but in those days there were no extended playoffs, and a one game deficit meant no shot at the title.  Following the disappointment in '49 the club nosedived to a fifth place finish in 1950. It spelled the end for Dyer's position as manager. He made the decision to turn his interests to multiple business ventures he was involved in, and did not return to baseball thereafter. While the years that followed '46 were years that might have been considered a disappointment Eddie Dyer was a part of Golden Era in St. Louis. When he filled out his lineup card he was able to scratch the name Musial, Slaughter, Schoendienst, and quite a few others who made a name for themselves with the Birds on the Bat adorned on their chests.

If you would like to read more about Billy Southworth or Eddie Dyer you should check out their Society of American Baseball Research biographies provided below. The article featured in today's picture was featured in the Deseret News out of Salt Lake City, Utah on December 6, 1945.

SABR bios



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 4, 1963: Roger Craig Gets Dealt To St. Louis

     On November 4, 1963, Cardinals General Manager Bing Devine sent outfielder George Altman and pitcher Bill Wakefield to the New York Mets in exchange for hard luck hurler Roger Craig. The 6 foot 4 righthander embraced the move with open arms. The Cardinals had been a thorn in his side up to that point. The thorn would be pulled out, and by the end of the '64 campaign he was one of many heroes that brought the city another Championship Title. 

     Craig had led the National League in losses in back-to-back seasons before the deal took place. He had lost 24 losses in '62, and 22 losses in '63, but he felt the trade would wipe his slate clean. He was headed to a  contender. However, the move to St. Louis did not provide an instant turnaround for him. He posted just a 7-9 record during the regular season, but it was what he did in the postseason that made the trade a great one.  

     Craig's performance in Game 4 of the '64 World Series earned him a win and a key victory in the seven game battle against Mickey Mantle and the Yankees. As far as the players that the Birds shipped to New York only Altman would spend significant time in the major leagues. He never did hit higher than .235 after he dealt. When it was all said and done, Craig spent just one season with the Cardinals. It was one helluva season to spend in St. Louis. 

If you would like to know more about the life and times of Roger Craig check this out:

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 1968: Harry Caray Nearly Loses His Life In The Lou

     In the wee hours of the morning, on a rainy November 3rd in 1968, Harry Caray nearly lost his life after being struck by a car in front of the Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis. The Hall of Fame broadcaster had returned from Columbia where he had called a Mizzou game the evening before, watched some Blues hockey, had dinner, then made a fateful decision to continue his night by going to the hotel to have a few drinks.

     Caray parked across the street from the hotel, and when he began to cross a 21-year-old man from Overland name Michael Poliquin was headed right for him. Poliquin did not see him until it was too late, and despite his efforts to stop he skidded into the Cardinals broadcaster. It was said that Caray flew 40 feet in one direction, and his shoes flew 25 feet in the other direction. Caray suffered a variety of injuries, which included compound fractures on both of his legs. As he lay there in the street he thought he was going to die.

     The man who had narrowly escaped death was listed in critical condition the following day. However, he upgraded quickly, and began a road to recovery. Within weeks he was smiling, and looking forward to getting back to work. The article on the left was printed the day after, while the photo on the right published five weeks later. There was no keeping Caray down.

Mark over at went into much greater detail. He even talks about how Caray turned his hospital room into party central. Check it out here:

One other note, I noticed Caray was ticketed for crossing in mid block. Some unsympathetic cops I guess. I mean for Pete Kozma's sake if you break both of your legs there should be a pass given for jaywalking.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November 2, 1881: A Franchise Is Born

     On November 2, 1881, the American Association was born within the walls of the Gibson House in Cincinnati, Ohio. One of the six teams selected to join this new league would call the City of St. Louis home. They would call themselves the Brown Stockings initially, but today we all know them as the St. Louis Cardinals. A franchise had been born.

     The game began being played in St. Louis long before that meeting took place. A man by the name of Merritt Griswold  had made his way to the Mound City in 1859. He had learned the game in New York, and he brought it with him. On April 26, 1860, Griswold had the rules published with a diagram that had the positions in an issue of the Daily Missouri Democrat.  He had planted a seed, and it took root.

      Griswold then organized a club that was called the Cyclone. Other teams formed around the region as well. One of those other clubs called themselves the Morning Stars. They took their name because they like to get in a game in the early hours of the day. They were known to hit the diamond between 5 and 6 in the morning. The Morning Stars called on Griswold to coach them in this new game. They were playing it their own way, and wanted to get it right. Griswold himself said, that they did not embrace his coaching at first, and went as far to say that they were disgusted by the way he wanted them to play it. It was described as the men "kicked" in their version base ball, as it was obvious they had not truly grasped the game just yet.

      That would change. After the initial practice that had the men repulsed they decided to let Griswold try to teach them some more, and their efforts paid off. The Cyclone and the Morning Stars played the first game of organized base ball in St. Louis on July 9, 1860. The Morning Stars won that first game 50-24. That seed that had taken root was now becoming a tree, and that tree would have to weather a storm. The storm I speak of  is the Civil War, which began in 1861. Griswold fought for the North, while some of the men he had been teaching that game went and fought for the south. In some cases brother against brother, had turned into teammate against teammate. Many of those men never returned to a diamond. Many of those men did not return home. Griswold's Cyclone club disbanded because of the war, and he returned to New York thereafter. He did not return West. However, his contributions to base ball in St. Louis should not be forgotten.

     While the times were turbulent, base ball survived in the city. A man named Jeremiah Fruin arrived in St. Louis in 1862. After leaving school at the age of 16, Fruin joined his father's construction business in New York. He then spent some time in New Orleans. He too was affected by the war, and was a member of the Union Army. That is what brought him to St. Louis. He was stationed there, and it proved to be a bit of fate for the man and the city as well.

      Fruin's construction experience was something that both he, and St. Louis benefited from. He helped get roads paved, a sewer system installed, and was instrumental in bringing the first rail system to town. Fruin also founded a construction company in 1872 that many would be familiar with today called Fru-Con Construction. He was very involved within the city, and later in life he would serve as the police commissioner. He was a man who served his community in many ways.

     The founder of the Sporting News Alfred H. Spink once said Fruin  was the Father of Base ball in St. Louis. It was something that Fruin did not embrace since he knew that he was not there when it all began. The reason Spink felt that way was that Fruin did act as a glue that held organized base ball together in St. Louis. There was a great respect for him because he served his community in many ways.

     One of those ways came with the knowledge he had of the game that was played on the diamond. While growing up in Brooklyn he had played organized ball, and what he seen around St. Louis was not so organized. He joined the Empires, and with some effort he helped straighten things out. As Fruin captained and played second base for the Empires, the game took another step forward, with the city and the world around him evolving as well.

       As time moved forward Fruin taught his men to play the game the right way, and base ball bloomed Soon there were clubs forming all around him.  Meanwhile in Cincinnati, the first first professional team formed with the Red Stockings. Men were getting paid, and an organized league was on the horizon. The Red Stockings toured the country, and played wherever they could find a diamond. Some of those diamonds found came in St. Louis, which had become a hotbed for base ball. At one point the Red Stockings played Fruin's Empire club, and handed them quite a defeat. 31-9  to be exact. The professionals also beat other local teams before heading to their next stop on their base ball tours. The St. Louis clubs may have lost those contests, but they made it be known that the city could support the game as fans turned out to watch the pros play ball.

     The first professional league formed in 1871. It was called the National Association of Base Ball Players.Two teams from St. Louis joined the league in 1875. The Red Stockings played ball at Compton and Gratriot, while the Brown Stockings played at Grand and Dodier in a site that became known as Sportsman's Park. Neither club would have direct ties to the Cardinals organization. Although, like the teams that played around the city before them they too were a part of something bigger that was yet to come.

      Unfortunately, the St. Louis Red Stockings came and went quickly. The National Association folded in 1876, and the club followed suit. The Brown Stockings joined the National League that season, and put together a 45-19 record. It was good for a second place finish behind a club in Chicago that would become known as the Cubs.  That string showing did not equal long term success though. The club was accused of throwing games in 1877, and after a fourth place finish the club left the league altogether.

     The city was without professional base ball. The aforementioned Alfred H. Spink wanted that to change. Many of the players from the Brown Stockings still played ball at Grand and Dodier after the team left the National League, and Spink knew the game could survive. It just needed someone with the financial backing to make it viable. The viable option ended up being Chis Von der Ahe, a grocery store, and saloon owner. He purchased the rights to the name and the ballpark for $1,800 after noticing his profits spike at the saloon. That $1,800 today would be roughly $40,000. Things were coming together.

  Von der Ahe was not well versed when it came to the game of base ball. Some said he had no idea what he was doing at all, yet dove right in. He fixed up the site at Grand and Dodier, and with help from Spink and company Von der Ahe made it be known that St. Louis could support a professional franchise. His efforts led to him being in that room when the American Association founders met in Cincinnati in 1881. When he walked out of that room he was the very first owner of the team that we call the Cardinals.

      The new league adopted a liberal set of rules to rival the National League. They could play on Sundays, were cheaper at the gate, and something that Von der Ahe surely loved was they could sell alcohol at the ballpark. The team enjoyed great success during their decade, winning four AA Pennants, and taking home a World Series title in 1886. There were rough times as well. The largely wooden structure that the fans called the ballpark burned six different times between 1882 and 1892. Engineering had not advanced, and quite frankly they were a victim of the times. Even then the game survived.

     Another setback came in 1890 when the Players League formed. It took money and players right out of the hands of those who ran American Association teams, as the market became more and more competitive. Teams came and went, and several teams jumped to the NL, which included the Cincinnati and Brooklyn clubs. As the dominoes fell the American Association fell with them. It went under in 1891, and the St. Louis Browns joined the National League before the 1892 campaign began. While their stay in the American Association was just a decade in time, it did provide a solid foundation for the club that would become the Cardinals. It was the birth of a franchise in a city that loved the game of base ball from the moment it found its way west of the Mississippi.

                                                                   Sources included

Chris Von der Ahe: Baseball pioneering huckster written by Richard Eigenreither for the Society of American Baseball Reasearch, It can be found here: (If you love baseball history you should consider becoming a member. I am. Check out the benefits here:

Base Ball Pioneers 1850-1870: The Clubs and Players who Spread the Sport by Peter Morris, William J. Ryczek, and Jan Finkel

The St. Louis Baseball Reader by Richard 'Pete' Peterson.

St. Louis, the fourth city 1764-1909. This book provides a short bio into Jeremiah Fruin. It can be found here:

The Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri. It can be found here:

The Chicago Tribune

The Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette 

A couple of other mentions to websites that I think anyone that has interest in baseball history would be interested in. The first is The website provides a great deal of information about baseball in St. Louis before the turn of the 20th century. It is absolutely great. It helped guide me to other helpful sites as well. I tip my cap to the person that put it together.

Another website that is very interesting is it is all about 19th Century Base Ball. The history, the ever evolving rules, the teams, and more.